Leah Ryan is a 2010 graduate of Concordia College and a reporter for the Mesabi Daily News in Virginia, Minn. This column originally appeared on http://www.virginiamn.com on Jan. 17, 2018.
The remains of Adam Gilbertson were found in the Platte River in Denver on Saturday, Jan. 13. Gilbertson was 29 years old and the case is still under investigation—leaving many unanswered questions for friends and family.
Gilbertson’s hometown is Randolph, Minn., where he graduated from high school in 2006.
Gilbertson graduated from Concordia College in 2010 with two degrees in Spanish and international business management. While at Concordia, Gilbertson spent a year studying abroad in Pamplona, Spain, at Universidad de Navarra.
From 2011-16, Gilbertson worked for Hennepin County as a Spanish Interpreter and Child Support Officer. He also spent time as a yoga instructor.
Gilbertson then graduated from the University of Wyoming Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing in 2017, earning his nursing degree.
Since October, he had been working as a RN Case Manager for Hospice in Denver.
According to his obituary: Adam is survived by his parents, Doug Gilbertson (Eileen) and Tammy Gilbertson, sister Amy (Randy) Linnell, brothers Aaron (Rachel) Gilbertson and David Gilbertson, nieces Adelaide Helgren (7), Callie Gilbertson (3) and Leah Gilbertson (1), numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and so many amazing friends.
I met Adam while we were both attending Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. I don’t remember how we met or when—just that he was a strong and happy person I could always depend on.
We both studied Spanish and he had an infectious love of life. His obituary said that he made “everyone feel beautiful, loved and worthy.” When I read that, it hit home. That statement is how his friends will remember him.
When I was with Adam, and now even thinking about him, I am not worried about my weight or that I don’t wear makeup. All that matters is his smile and the happiness we reflect to each other.
Our last semester at Concordia, I decided to host a tea party. My roommate and I lived in a professor’s basement and we made cake and had a selection of tea that I served.
The table was set with a vintage teal table cloth and we pulled it away from our wall covered with posters of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe just to be able to squeeze in one more spot. None of the cups matched.
I don’t remember much, but I do remember that one person dominated the conversation and I was left feeling empty and alone—that is until Adam hugged me. When Adam gives hugs it is his soul reaching out and spilling love into yours. He smoothed my ruffled feathers. We smiled at each other, all was OK.
The summer after we graduated, I had a friend visit from Ireland. Ann Marie and I planned a U.S. road trip. As part of our adventure we spent a day or two with Adam. At the time, he was living at home and he and his family welcomed us with open arms.
It was a beautiful home and such a welcoming environment. We laughed the whole trip.
At one point, Adam took us for a drive in his father’s convertible. With the hood down we felt like we were flying as he drove us through beautiful Minnesota scenery. We found ourselves in a little town and hiked up a hill. The three of us stood on the cliff overlooking the town as the sun set.
All was right and good.
That was the last time we spent time together. The next morning, Ann Marie and I drove off in my little red Ford Ranger, waving through the open windows.
How I regret not seeing him more, not talking to him more, not being there to catch him.
In a deep breath I realize that I need to focus on the lessons Adam taught me and carry that on as his legacy. Like him, I need to learn to make everyone I know feel beautiful, loved and worthy. I need to stretch and do yoga with Adam’s spirit. I need to commune with nature—that is where I will find him.
Adam, now I click from tab to tab on your Facebook page. I guess I am looking for something but what I don’t know, but I am frustrated that I can’t find it.